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These are the 10 best national parks for wildlife spotting in North America

From the grandeur of Yellowstone’s bison to the breathtaking scenery of Banff’s elk, these are the best national parks for wildlife spotting. Whether you’re seeking the awe-inspiring majesty of grizzly bears or the elusive charm of desert bighorn sheep, we’ve listed when and where to spot these creatures at some of North America’s best reserves for spotting wildlife.

Bison and gray wolves at Yellowstone National Park

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

The iconic Yellowstone National Park hosts both the powerful bison and elusive gray wolf. To spot bison, visit during spring when they gather in large herds across the park’s meadows including in the Hayden Valley. Late fall is the optimal time for gray wolf sightings, especially in the Lamar Valley.
Best time for spotting: Spring for bison and late fall for wolves.

GO WILDLIFE SPOTTING: National Park Wonders

American alligators at Everglades National Park

This unique Florida wilderness is home to the formidable American alligator. These prehistoric creatures can be observed year-round, making the park a prime destination for eager reptile enthusiasts. That said, late winter and early spring are particularly favorable for alligator spotting when they bask in the sun along the park’s waterways. The Anhinga Trail offers an excellent opportunity to witness these ancient reptiles up close. 
Best time for spotting: Late winter and early spring.

Elk and grizzly bears at Banff National Park

Banff National Park is a paradise for wildlife in Canada. Summer is the ideal season to spot elk, and you’ll often encounter them in the Bow Valley Parkway area. For grizzly bears, late spring and early summer are prime viewing times, particularly around Lake Louise.
Best time for spotting: Summer for elk and late spring/early summer for bears.

VISIT THE PARK: Secrets of the Rockies and Glacier National Park

Black bears at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Some 1,900 black bears call Great Smoky Mountains National Park home. Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and spring and early summer are prime times to spot the black bears as they forage for food. The Cades Cove area offers excellent opportunities for black bear sightings in the Great Smoky Mountains, with its lush meadows and dense woodlands providing the perfect backdrop. 
Best time for spotting: Spring and early summer for bears.

Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

Majestic elk take center stage at Rocky Mountain National Park. These iconic creatures roam freely through the park’s lush meadows and dense forests, nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Fall is the prime time to witness their awe-inspiring bugling calls and dramatic mating rituals. The Moraine Park area serves as a hotspot for elk sightings, providing a chance to observe these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. 
Best time for spotting: Fall for the mating rituals.

GO WILDLIFE SPOTTING: Welcome to Colorado

Desert bighorn sheep at Zion National Park

In the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Zion is a captivating wildlife destination. Among its charismatic inhabitants are desert bighorn sheep, which are often seen scaling the rugged cliffs and canyons – a tactic they use to escape predators like mountain lions. Additionally, the park is a haven for California condors year-round. Embark on the Canyon Overlook Trail for the bighorn sheep and explore the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for the awe-inspiring California condors.
Best time for spotting: Spring for sheep and year-round for condors.

VISIT THE PARK: Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks

Bald eagles and harbor seals at Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, a gem on the rugged coast of Maine, ranks high among the best national parks for wildlife enthusiasts keen on spotting wildlife. Bald eagles gracefully soar overhead, which you’ll spy regardless of the season, especially in the Jordan Pond area. As for harbor seals, you’ll find these chilled out creatures sunbathing in the rocky coastal areas, especially in late spring and early summer.
Best time for spotting: Year-round for eagles and late spring/early summer for seals.


Joshua Tree National Park’s endangered trees

In Southern California’s high desert, Joshua Tree is a famous desert landscape renowned for its iconic and endangered Joshua Trees. These distinctive, spiky trees thrive amidst a surreal terrain of otherworldly rock formations. Here you’ll spot desert wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and numerous bird species. The cooler months and early mornings are best for animal spotting.
Best time for spotting: Cooler months and early mornings.

VISIT THE PARK: America’s Great Desert National Parks

Brown bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve 

Nestled in Alaska’s pristine wilderness, Katmai National Park is undeniably one of the best national parks for wildlife enthusiasts seeking unparalleled opportunities for spotting wildlife. Its claim to fame? The awe-inspiring brown bears – also known as grizzly bears! The prime time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit is during the summer months when the salmon runs are in full swing. It’s during these periods that these colossal bears gather along the Brooks River to feast on delicious salmon. To see the bears of Brooks Falls, visit the observation platform for a safe and unforgettable wildlife encounter.
Best time for spotting: Summer, specifically July and September during the salmon runs.

RELATED BLOG: The Trafalgar wildlife-spotting guide to Yellowstone National Park

Moose in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton is Wyoming’s natural treasure and is renowned for its flourishing moose population. These massive creatures can be spotted year-round, but summer is best when the lush meadows and wetlands provide the perfect backdrop for sightings. Keep your camera ready when exploring the Moose-Wilson Road, as it’s a favored haunt for these creatures.
Best time for spotting: Summer but also year-round.

VISIT THE PARK: Five Epic National Parks

That’s our round-up of the best national parks for wildlife. From the bears of Brook Falls to the Bald Eagles at Arcadia, leave us a comment with which park you’re most excited to go spotting wildlife in…

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